Lanka lauds India’s ‘continuous support’ to combat COVID; $15 mn offer to enhance religious tourism

Colombo, Aug 23 (PTI) Sri Lanka’s newly-appointed foreign minister G L Peiris on Monday appreciated India’s “continuous support” for combatting the COVID-19 pandemic and also the USD 15 million offer to preserve and promote Buddhist cultural sites in the island nation.

During a meeting between Peiris and Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay here, the two sides highlighted the pivotal importance of relations between Lanka and India which have stood the test of time as close neighbours and expressed satisfaction at the current level of cooperation and resolved to raise bilateral relations in multiple sectors to even higher levels, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Peiris expressed appreciation and continuous support being provided by India for combatting the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.

He also thanked the Indian government “for supplying emergency consignments of liquid oxygen from east Indian ports, even by using Indian naval ships,” the ministry said.

According to the Indian High Commission in Colombo, 40 tonnes of oxygen arrived in Lanka from Chennai on Monday. Over a four day period between August 20 and August 23, India has sent 180 tonnes of oxygen to Lanka, it tweeted.

The discussion between Peiris and Baglay also centred on enhancing religious tourism.

“Foreign Minister Peiris also appreciated the offer of USD 15 million by the Government of India to preserve and promote Buddhist cultural sites in Sri Lanka and expressed interest in early implementation of the offer,” the statement said.

Both sides also discussed the possibility of the early convening of the Indo-Lanka Joint Commission, which was last convened in 2016. It was agreed that the six Working Groups under the Joint Commission, covering specific subject areas under education, science and technology, tourism, trade and investment, fisheries and the power sector, should meet at the earliest possible opportunity.

Matters relating to fisheries were also discussed and both sides agreed to search for a meaningful, pragmatic solution to the issues. Indian assistance to develop fisheries harbours in Lanka was greatly appreciated.